Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Full vacation photos on Picasa

From now on I will be putting photos on Picasa for everybody to see so that nobody has to sign up for Facebook that doesn't want to (it seems like you need to be a member or have a special invitation to view pictures). You can look at pictures individually or see a neat slideshow. Put on your choice of relaxing music and enjoy!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Argentina 2

Tafi del Valle was very exciting because it marked the first stop in the part of the country that we came to see: the Andes.

Unfortunately, at this point in the trip my camera was not working yet so I was not able to capture the amazing trip up the mountain, following a winding white river rushing in the opposite direction, switching back and forth on a narrow road while overloaded trucks rushed past, finally over the pass and down into the valley. It was a trip worth doing over again just for that.

Upon arriving in Tafi, some friendly people from local hostals were waiting to welcome us to town, and invite us to their hostals. We thanked them, took their fliers, and struck off on our own. Pretty soon we met up with our Eurpoean friends Carlo and Sara. Not wanting to waste any time, we dropped our backpacks off at a hostal, ate some empanadas (and a delicious bowl of humita) and went out to hike the nearest peak. We were told that from this peak we would be 8530 feet above sea level, and 1000 feet above the town.

After we got back from the hike, Carlo made us a pasta dinner to celebrate Brandon's birthday. He had been craving pasta anyway, saying that back home in Italy they never go more than a day without eating pasta.

The next day, we went for a long walk/hike that looped way out into the country, through a tiny community, around through a larger community where we had a look at a bunch of "huancas" or big rocks that have been carved with faces or symbols. I don't have any pictures, but here are some excerpts from the handy (english) pamphlit I got.

"Huanca" is a Quechua word that broadly translates as "the benefactors or guards
of the place they are in". In this case we refer to the monoliths as "huanca
protectors", who are favorable to the crops and the cattle. They were
probably idols representing different Gods, and placed strategically so as to
provide benefit to their immediate surroundings. Archaeologists say that
the stones found in this area were probably created around 2000 years ago.

Here are some pictures from that day.

After two nights in Tafi del Valle, we were ready to move on. An easy bus ride took us to our next stop: Amaicha del Valle.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Argentina 1

I recently spent a 2 week vacation traveling Northwest Argentina with my friend and fellow Peace Corps volunteer Brandon Kobashigawa. It was a fast paced and exciting time in which I saw and did hundreds of new things, and made a few foreign friends along the way. In the next few posts here I will put down some of my experiences and a few photos to go along.

Tafi del Valle
Amaicha del Valle

Formosa was only a place to switch busses on our way from Asuncion to Tucuman, and back from Salta to Asuncion so I won't say much about it other than that they have a nice but terminal.

Tucuman is a large city of about half a million people. When not sleeping in the filthy but cheap Hotel Florida, we walked around the central area and explored the shops and restaurants. I ate my first baked potato since leaving home, it was a sign of the great food to come.

My best memory of Tucuman is one evening when we were looking for a place to drink terere. We sat down on a bench near an outdoor restaurant seating area. Almost at the same moment, a man walked up to the bench across from us and pulled out a red trumpet. He played for us (and the outdoor diners) for about 20 minutes, including some decent Louis Armstrong classics. I think I saw just about everybody there give him a few pesos for his performance.

There is an amazing restaurant in Tucuman called El Portal. Near the plaza. The owner is a friendly (and beautiful) older woman who speaks British English and will have plenty of suggestions on where to go and what to do in this part of the country. She also treated us to a free lunch on our final day in the city. They serve a great regional dish called humita. Humita is, as far as I can tell, made from fresh corn, cheese, and spices. A treat for vegetarians in an otherwise big meat eating country.

The day before we left Tucuman we met some European travelers, Sara from Spain and Carlo from Italy. We were all traveling in the same direction so we decided to meet up the next day in the next city, Tafi del Valle.